UK government ministers must explain why crucial documents relating to CIA “torture flights” that stopped on sovereign British territory were destroyed, a panel of MPs (members of parliament) has said.
A damning appraisal by the influential House of Commons foreign affairs select committee on the UK’s role in the rendition of terror suspects and alleged complicity of torture condemns the government’s lack of transparency on vital areas of concern.
In particular, the MPs, in a report released yesterday, call for an explanation for the missing papers, which might explain the role of Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory, in the US’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
The report says: “We recommend that the government discloses how, why and by whom the records relating to flights through Diego Garcia since the start of 2002 were destroyed.”
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted 18 months ago that two US planes refueled on the Indian Ocean island. The committee now wants a detailed account of the record-keeping and disposal policy regarding flights through the territory and “elsewhere through UK airspace.”
It also criticizes the government’s inability to offer assurances that ships anchored outside Diego Garcia’s waters were not involved in the rendition program.
“The government must address the use of UK airspace for empty flights that may be part of a rendition circuit,” the report said.
The committee also voiced disquiet over claims that British intelligence officers were complicit in the torture of detainees held overseas.
Documents revealed by the high court last month showed that an MI5 (the British security service) officer visited Morocco three times during the time British resident Binyam Mohamed claims he was secretly interrogated and tortured there.
Meanwhile, more than 120 Labour MPs — a third of the parliamentary party — are preparing to quit the British parliament at the next general election in the biggest clear-out of the parliamentary “old guard” for generations, senior party figures said.
On Saturday night, the party released figures showing that 63 Labour MPs have already informed party leader and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that they were going.
Information passed on to party whips suggests this total will rise to 93 by the end of conference season in the autumn, and could then climb by at least another 20 to 30 in the run-up to a general election, which is expected next spring.
Party insiders say MPs’ experiences when confronting voters incensed by the expenses’ scandal has added to a sense of disillusion about the job as Labour heads for what many now believe is inevitable, thumping defeat at the next general election.
Many Labour MPs are concerned that their earnings will be pegged back severely if pressure mounts over coming months to stop them taking second jobs in order to supplement their £64,766 (US$108, 069) salaries.
One senior Labour figure said: “The total will go well over 100, probably to 120. After 12 years in power, Labour MPs do not want to be in opposition for a decade bound by rules that prevent them realizing their earning potential.”
Andrew MacKinlay, a Labour backbencher who recently announced he was quitting, said: “A lot more will go, I am sure. It will probably reach 120. That should be the high-water mark.”